10 Surprising Uses for Cotton Swabs

iStock.com/Clovera
iStock.com/Clovera

If you stick cotton swabs inside your ears, you’re using them wrong. Despite being perfectly-sized to slide inside your ear canal, cotton swabs are never meant to go deeper than the outermost part of your ear, and if they do they could inflict serious damage on your hearing. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth having in your home: From beauty, to chores, to arts and crafts, here are some smart—and safe—uses for the hygiene products.

1. SHINE JEWELRY

When it comes to cleaning precious items like jewelry, cotton swabs are the right tools for the job. The cotton ends are gentle enough to handle valuable materials and make them look brand new. After soaking your jewelry in a cleaning solution, rub it gently with your fingers and use a cotton swab to clean out the detailed areas. Rinse it and set it out to dry before returning it to your jewelry box—or your finger.

2. PAINT POLKA DOTS

Get in touch with your inner Yayoi Kusama and break out the cotton swabs for your next art project. Whether you're painting polka dots on a mug, birthday card, or bedroom wall, start by selecting paint in the color you want to work with. Using cotton swabs in place of a paintbrush, you can create a pattern of tiny, even dots on any surface. Once the project is complete, toss your swabs away instead spending extra time washing art supplies.

3. CLEAN ELECTRONICS

Cleaning a laptop fan with a cotton swab
iStock/lzf

The nooks and crannies of your computer's keyboard and the edges of your phone case—a.k.a surfaces you touch everyday—are magnets for dirt. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your electronics, set aside time to sanitize them with cotton swabs as soon as possible. Cotton swabs are designed to clean delicate parts of your skin, which makes them perfect for cleaning expensive personal devices. They’re also the right size for reaching the tight corners where years' worth of dust and grime like to hide. Just soak the cotton ends in rubbing alcohol before you begin your cleaning spree.

4. LIGHT A CANDLE

Tall candles last a long time, but they also become difficult to light toward the end of their lifespan. If you don’t have a grill lighter or extra-long matches at home, you can use a cotton swab to light a hard-to-reach wick. Soak one end in alcohol before carefully lighting it with a match or lighter and then dip it into the candle holder. Make sure you have cup of water nearby so you can extinguish it quickly.

5. TOUCH-UP PAINT JOBS

Chipped paint on your walls or furniture is no reason to break out your paint brushes. If you already have paint in the matching color at home, all you need is a cotton swab to apply it. Cotton swabs are especially convenient for those smaller home touch-ups you’ve been putting off for months.

6. CLEAN YOUR CAR’S INTERIOR

Woman cleaning the interior of her car
iStock/CasarsaGuru

Before paying someone to detail your car's interior, see what you can do with a pack of cotton swabs. After clearing your vehicle of any trash or junk, you can use cotton swabs and cleaning liquid to tackle those areas that are often neglected, like cup holders, the seams in your steering wheel, and the cracks in your seats. For dirty car floors, you’ll need to use a vacuum cleaner.

7. REMOVE SCUFFS FROM SHOES

A few bad scuff marks may be enough to convince you never to wear nice shoes outside again. But even when they're on patent leather, most unsightly scratches can be erased. Just soak the end of a cotton swab in nail polish remover and gently scrub the damaged area with it. Follow that up by covering the same area with either baby powder or petroleum jelly, in order to protect the material itself. It shouldn’t take long for your shoes to look smooth, shiny, and ready for your next formal event.

8. COLOR ONE STRAND OF HAIR AT A TIME

Not every color touch-up warrants a trip to the hairdresser. If you notice a few stray undyed hairs messing up your newly-colored ‘do, you can take care of them with some cotton swabs and a touch-up kit. Once you’ve applied the colorant to the swab, carefully brush it over the strand, wait 10 minutes, and rinse it out. Using a cotton swab gives you enough control to dye one strand at a time without touching the surrounding hair.

9. FIX A STUCK ZIPPER

A stuck zipper on a pair of jeans
iStock/beyhanyazar

Many jackets have been thrown away due to a stuck zipper. If the zipper on your favorite piece of clothing won’t budge, see what a little lubricant can do. Apply petroleum jelly, soap, olive oil, or something similar to the problem area with a cotton swab and gently tug at it until the snag loosens.

10. ASSEMBLE A TRAVEL BEAUTY KIT

The complex beauty routine you enjoy every morning becomes a lot less appealing when you’re away from home. Give yourself some extra room in your travel bag by preparing a scaled-down beauty kit. Instead of packing your eyeshadow palette, apply your eye makeup to the ends of cotton swabs instead and store them in a plastic bag. Once you’ve reached your destination, just pull out the swabs, swipe them over your eyelids, and toss them out when you're done. This trick also works with lip gloss and perfume.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

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5 Ingenious Tricks for Saving Burnt Cookies

"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
cnicbc/iStock via Getty Images

It doesn’t take long for cookies to go from an irresistible golden brown to a dispiriting black (especially if you're baking at a high altitude). But before you toss them in the trash and start rummaging around in your pantry for a store-bought snack, we have a few suggestions for saving that imperfect batch.

1. Grate off the burnt bits of cookie with a zester or cheese grater.

As PureWow explains, all you have to do is slide the cookie along your cheese grater to get rid of the burnt layer on the bottom. The smaller the holes, the better, so a lemon zester works well for this, too.

2. Scrape the burned part of the cookie off with a knife.

If you don’t have a cheese grater, you can get the same results with a regular knife—it just might take you an extra minute or two. Instead of slicing off the entire bottom of the cookie, hold your knife blade perpendicular to the bottom of the cookie and carefully scrape away the burnt crumbs.

3. Store the burned cookies in a jar with a piece of bread.

Even after you’ve shaved off the blackened evidence of your culinary blunder, your cookies might still be crispier than you’d prefer. Store them in an airtight container with a slice of bread—they’ll soak up the moisture and soften right up.

4. Make ice cream sandwiches with your burned cookies.

Snobby snackers won’t scoff at your grated cookies if they can’t even see the bottoms. Slather one with a nice, thick layer of ice cream, slap another one on top, and roll the edges in your favorite topping for a treat that’s better than any cookie—burnt or not.

5. Transform your burned cookies into a cookie crust.

For charred, crunchy cookies that seem beyond salvation, you can completely cut off the burnt bottoms, crush the remains, and turn them into a cookie crust for a pie or cheesecake. Here’s a simple recipe from the Pioneer Woman that calls for three ingredients: cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar.