They're bulky and take up precious cabinet space, but we'll never get rid of our slow cookers. They can be lifesavers on days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something deliciously comforting to get us through.
A slow cooker, aka Crock-Pot, is one awesome household appliance for hands-off cooking. If you have one (a recent study says at least 80% of Americans do) you may know what a great time- and money-saver it is. Surprisingly, your slow cooker is good for other tasks that have nothing to do with eating.
For the projects that follow, you may want to find that old, vintage slow cooker gathering dust in the garage so that you have one dedicated for nonfood projects. Or pick up a second liner (inner pot) for your multicooker Instant Pot.
We all have old candles that are lopsided or have holes burned through one side. Rather than toss them in the trash, toss them in the slow cooker instead.
Once melted, fish out the old wicks and gather your heatproof containers. Tie a weighted candlewick (you can find these online or at any craft store) on a pencil laid across the container's rim, and let the other end dangle into the empty container. Carefully ladle the melted wax into the container without disturbing the wick, and allow it to cool. There you go — new candles!
Looking for a great homemade gift idea? This could be it! Homemade soap is wonderful because you can customize your soap bars with the scents and ingredients you prefer.
While there are many recipes and instructions available online, you can skip the tedium with a clear melt and pour soap base. It's detergent-free. An hour in the slow cooker plus essential oil (20 drops of lavender would be an awesome choice), colorant and any variety of botanicals, and you've made your own beautiful soap products.
FRESHEN THE AIR
Whether you need to get rid of cooking smells or want to scent the house for the holidays, your slow cooker can pull double duty as an air freshener. Fill it three-quarters with water, add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil, turn it on high and then leave it uncovered.
The steam will waft fragrance throughout your house. No essential oils on hand? Toss in apple and orange peels, cranberries or a few cloves and some cinnamon sticks, instead.
Pro tip: Don't toss out-of-date spices that you won't use for baking or cooking. Use them here. You'll be amazed by how much life they have to contribute to this second use.
If you want to strip paint from metal hinges, knobs, handles, doorknobs, etc., without the nasty fumes and mess of chemical strippers, just fill a slow cooker with water, cover, and set the dial to high. In a few hours, the heat and moisture will soften the paint, and often it will fall off as a single piece. This works on oil, latex and spray paints, but it may not remove some clear finishes such as lacquer.
Cooking the hardware may stain or contaminate the pot, so use an old one you won't be using again for food. This method won't harm hardware made of nonrusting metals such as copper, brass or aluminum. You'll end up with a little rust on steel — not enough to ruin hidden parts like hinge pins or screws, but possibly enough to roughen shiny surfaces.
Pro tip: If the steel has plating, such as chrome or brass, and the plating is already flaking off, this method will cause more flaking.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: greenschemetv at Pixabay