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50 Uses for Toothpicks

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After brewing up 49 uses for tea last month, we came across a household staple even more versatile and valuable. With thanks to "Bon Appetit" and "Readers Digest" magazines, along with a bunch of bloggers, artists, teachers and DIY nuts, we offer 50 uses for toothpicks.

Home improvement uses

1. Wood filler: Toothpicks also have plenty of uses outside the kitchen. One of the best and most popular uses is as a makeshift but sturdy wood filler. If you have stripped screw holes for hinges, drawer hardware or other spots, you can fill the hole with toothpicks. Dab glue on the end of each toothpick, then slide it in, and break off the end. Once the hole is tightly filled with toothpicks, re-drill the stripped hole.

2. Touch up furniture and woodwork: A toothpick is the perfect tool for adding paint to small scratches in furniture, woodwork and cabinets. It's smaller, cheaper and neater than a paintbrush, and will only repaint the small crack rather than the surrounding area.

3. Repair ornaments: A toothpick is also handy for getting glue into small spaces and onto small surfaces, such as figurines, statuettes or ornaments.

4. Fill small holes: Toothpicks can also hide accidental, exposed nail holes in wood projects. Dab some glue on the toothpick and push it into the hold. Break off the end, then sand flush and add stain or paint if necessary.

5. Sew buttons: Some sewing experts keep a couple of toothpicks in the sewing kit for sewing on buttons, either by machine or hand. They use the toothpick as a thread shank to create space between the button and the fabric. The space is necessary for the button to fasten properly. Toothpicks are also handy for cleaning and repairing sewing machines.

6. Mark tape: Avoid searching for the end of the tape roll, then shredding the tape in trying to use the end. Wrap the tape around a toothpick each time you finish using the tape.

Cleaning uses

7. Clean brushes: Poke a toothbrush through the bristles of a dog brush or other brush to easily pull out the accumulated hair.

8. Clean cracks and gaps: Dip a toothpick in rubbing alcohol or other sterile cleaning solution, then use it to scrape out cracks and gaps in furniture and gadgets. It also may be the only way to reach into small spaces and clear out cobwebs and dirt.

9. Clean the phone: Forensic scientists have used toothpicks to gather drug residue from drug dealers' phones. The residue is used as evidence against the dealers. You may not have incriminating evidence on your phone receiver, but you may have dirt and grime in the receiver holes. The best way to clear out the holes is with a toothpick.

10. Clean keyboards: Likewise, keyboards have lots of tight, small spaces that are difficult to clean with anything larger than a toothpick. 

11. Wash your hands: After gardening or doing other dirty jobs, it's hard to get all the grime out from under your fingernails, even if you wash your hands thoroughly for 30 seconds with soap and hot water. However, a carefully used toothpick under the nails can quickly take them from dirty to date-worthy.

Crafty uses

12. Add sequins and jewels: To neatly attach small sequins, jewels or buttons to a craft project, dab on small amounts of glue with a toothpick.

13. Stir tiny paint cans: Toothpicks also make great miniature stirrers for the paint containers that go with model kits and other small projects. As noted above, toothpicks also work for applying paint in small, precise spaces.

14. Finish or fix projects: Toothpicks come in handy before and after the painting stage as well. Dab small amounts of glue onto surfaces for completing or repairing model airplanes or similarly small, detailed projects.

15. Make doll furniture: Toothpicks can serve as doll-size lamp stands, curtain rods, table legs and much more. Just cut to fit and paint to suit.

16. Build a remote control yacht: Instead of just accessorizing with toothpicks, you can also make entire craft projects with toothpicks, including a remote control yacht.

17. Make a sculpture: If a yacht isn't enough of a challenge, and you happen to have 36 years and 100,000 toothpicks to spare, you can also replicate this elaborate cityscape with toothpicks.  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/17/eveningnews/main20063762.shtml

Educational uses

18. Build a bridge: Toothpicks are also great for the classroom, from elementary school through college. High school and college students struggle annually with the physics, math and engineering challenges of building a toothpick bridge that is structurally sound, and can support significant amounts of weight.

19. Make a box:There are also lesson plans for a toothpick box, which is both more fun and more functional than a toothpick bridge. However, building a solid box takes careful counting and precise work. As Fat Albert said, "If you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done."

20. Teach math: Third, math lesson plans involving toothpicks are available for parents and teachers.

Gardening uses

21. Plant an avocado: The best way to start an avocado plant from seed is not to plant it in soil. Instead, wash the avocado seed and push three toothpicks into the seed. Then suspend the seed on a glass with water covering the bottom inch of the wide end of the seed. Give it a warm spot out of direct sunlight and keep it watered. After the roots and stem start to grow, plant the bottom half of the seed in rich soil.

22. Repair a bent stem: A toothpick can often brace a drooping or bent plant stem. Straighten the stem and attach the toothpick with tape. Water the plant and watch for it to grow back to health. Remove the toothpick splint once it is growing again to avoid choking off the stem.

23. Repair a garden hose leak: Stick a toothpick into the hole in a leaking garden hose. The water will swell the wood and provide a good temporary plug.

24. Test soil moisture: The toothpick test for cakes sort of works in reverse for houseplants. Push a toothpick into the soil around potted plants. If it comes out clean, it needs water. If it comes out wet and covered with soil, doesn't need water yet.

25. Deter cutworms: Experienced green thumbs recommend pushing three toothpicks into the soil close to the stem of a tomato plant or other seedling. This can keep cutworms from curling around the plant and eating it.

Random uses

26. Press the reset button: Toothpicks are the perfect size for reaching into the tiny recessed holes that house reset buttons on many gadgets.

27. Fix broken glasses: If you lose a screw in your eyeglasses, try aligning the screw holes and inserting a toothpick. Break off the end and tape the toothpick in place. You will at least be able to see until you can get them properly fixed.

28. Light candles: Toothpicks burn slower and longer than matches, so use a match to light a toothpick for lighting candles.

29. Quit smoking: The act of chewing on a toothpick, particularly a flavored toothpick, can help with nicotine withdrawal.

30. Navigate: In a real pinch, a toothpick can help you find which way is north, so you can navigate without a compass. If you hold a toothpick next to a manual wristwatch, it should cast a shadow on the watch. Turn the watch so the toothpick casts its shadow over the hour hand. Find the line halfway between the hour hand and 12 (or 1 during daylight savings time). That line should run north-south. 

31. Make a bookmark: In a pinch, a toothpick can be a handy way to mark your place in a book without folding the page. 

32. Re-enact "Star Wars" or "The Three Musketeers" on a small scale: No list of toothpick uses could be complete without some weaponry. It's no mistake some cocktail toothpicks are shaped like swords. Toothpicks make great miniature make-believe light sabers, swords and javelins.

33. Make blow darts: If you happen to be stranded in a bar without a weapon and you suddenly need to defend yourself against pirates, put a toothpick in a cocktail straw and you have an effective blow dart. (We do not endorse this or in any way encourage you to do this. If you try this stunt, that's your problem and we're not responsible for your decision. If you decide to test this, do not do it near other people.  You really could hurt someone.)

34. Style your beard or hair: Finally, we are not sure why this guy stuck 2,747 toothpicks in his beard, except to top the guy who stuck 2,000 toothpicks in his beard. There are also videos of human hedgehogs with thousands of toothpicks in their hair.

Culinary uses

35. Test foods for "doneness": Stick a toothpick into cakes and brownies while baking. If it comes out clean, the baked goods are done. The toothpick test is also a proven but less publicized method for checking barbecued ribs for "doneness." However, heed a few warnings. The toothpick test is not foolproof. Chocolate chips and other melting ingredients can mess up the test. Also, the toothpick test could crack a cheesecake. Finally, resist the urge to open the oven prematurely or obsessively to stick toothpicks in your cakes. Opening the door releases a lot of heat, and could cause problems.

36. Design icing: Toothpicks are also handy after the cake is out of the oven. The thin tip makes a nice "pencil" for sketching out designs and words on the cake before permanently applying your decorations in icing.

37. Differentiate foods: At a party or potluck, use differently colored or labeled toothpicks to mark foods with different ingredients or cooked to different levels. For example, you can mark wheat and gluten-free rolls, or meat and vegetarian dumplings, or rare, medium and well-done burgers.

38. Make food handles: Speaking of parties, make messy appetizers and desserts easier to handle with toothpicks. You can even class them up with tiny flowers, Martha Stewart-style.

39. Complete a martini: Toothpicks are also great for adding olives to martinis or fruit to tropical cocktails, or even a fancy way to put an orange or lemon slice in a beer.

40. Dress a ham: Add flavor and color to a baked ham by pinning pineapples and cherries to the ham with toothpicks. I know from personal experience that real toothpicks are a better option than makeshift splinters of firewood (I was once without toothpicks at a holiday family dinner and actually resorted to splinters of firewood).

41. Make a fruit bouquet: Use toothpicks and wooden skewers to make edible arrangements of fruit or other treats.

42. Hold a sandwich together: Restaurants don't spear club sandwiches with toothpicks just to provide a way to get bacon out of your teeth. They also serve a structural purpose in keeping sandwiches and burgers from falling apart. Serve neater sandwiches held together with toothpicks.

43. Hold together grilled vegetables: Push toothpicks horizontally through onion slices to keep them from falling apart on the grill. You can also use toothpicks to hold together stacks of vegetables and cheese for quickly melting the cheese on the grill. It's best to soak the toothpicks in water for 10 minutes before putting them on the grill.

44. Use when marinating: Stick a toothpick through garlic cloves or other items you plan to remove from a marinade. It's an easier, safer and more hygienic way to remove the garlic before serving.

45. Protect the stovetop: To keep pots from boiling over, create a little gap for escaping steam by sticking a toothpick under the lid.

46. Cook potatoes even faster: Microwaves make quick work of cooking potatoes, but you can cook spuds and other vegetables even faster by suspending them on little toothpick legs. The potato will cook more quickly and evenly on all sides, including the bottom.

47. Cook sausages: To cook sausages evenly and easily, pair them up with toothpicks. They will be easier to turn over, they won't roll around in the pan, and you only need to turn them once.

48. Make a dressing dripper: Free-flowing dressings can really heap the calories on an otherwise healthy salad. Instead of removing the entire foil seal on bottled dressing, poke smaller holes in the top with a toothpick, releasing a slower and healthier drip of dressing.

49. Make a sweet or spicy "snack": Flavored toothpicks are a good way to satisfy hunger cravings without adding calories. Cinnamon toothpicks and other flavors are widely available, or you can make your own with cinnamon oil.

50. Get food out of your teeth (maybe): As the name suggests, this is the primary use of a toothpick. However, some dentists warn against toothpicks, and prefer dental floss for removing material between teeth. But keep some toothpicks handy anyway for the other 49 uses.

Steve Graham is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer. Read more articles like this one - http://www.networx.com/article/50-uses-for-toothpicks - or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.

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