We Tested It: Cleaning with Peanut Butter

The fact that you can use peanut butter for purposes other than eating is one of those things you’ve probably heard about from a "fun fact" person at a terrible party. It usually comes right after they tell you that an avocado is a nut and a peanut is a legume, but before they inform you that a banana is technically a berry. Rightfully, we all try to ignore this type of person, so most of us have never actually tried out any of the alternative uses for peanut butter that they might suggest. To see if our prejudiced unwillingness to heed annoying peanut butter advice is warranted or not, I tested a few alternative uses. Let’s begin, though, with one use I didn’t test.

Everyone has heard that peanut butter can help get gum out of your hair. That may or may not be true. But, what I can tell you is absolutely true is that peanut butter does not at all help get Silly Putty out of your hair. When I was around 12 years old, I tried spreading Silly Putty over my hair to see if I could imprint it with the crosshatch pattern of my individual hair strands. It worked the first time, but the second time it just got completely interwoven onto my scalp. Having heard about peanut butter as a gum-remover, I gave it a shot on the Silly Putty. It not only failed to remove the Silly Putty, but also coated my hair with oil. My shampoo wouldn’t lather up for the following six weeks. Not wanting to face the possibility of reliving any part of that childhood trauma, I passed on the peanut butter-in-your-hair-test. I hope you will understand.

As for the well-known trick of using peanut butter as bait for mousetraps, that actually works. Living in a number of different apartments in Boston and New York City, I have had mouse issues here and there. Baiting a trap with peanut butter has always seemed to work about as well as well as cheese, but has the added benefit of not getting crusty and gross. Not that it really matters if the cheese gets crusty and gross – you’re not looking for the mouse to have a really good time with it – but it’s disconcerting to know there’s a deteriorating hunk of dairy behind your side table. Peanut butter just seems less off-putting.

Moving onto the lesser-known alternative uses for peanut butter, there is the rumor that you can use it to shave. Not willing to try this out on my face, I tried it on my leg. I applied the peanut butter with a knife because it felt classier than sticking my fingers directly into the jar.

Technically, it worked. It served as a lubricant and kept the razor from leaving a rash or cutting me. But, some claim it works just as well as any store bought shaving cream or gel. This isn’t true at all. The peanut butter clogs up the razor and takes a great deal of time to rinse off the blades. It also leaves your skin incredibly greasy. And sometimes, afterwards, you have to go write an article in a coffee shop and you end up feeling self-conscious that you might still smell like peanut butter. Choosy moms don’t choose to let their kids shave with peanut butter.

You might have also heard that peanut butter can help to remove sticker residue left behind by price tags. I tried this out on a candle I had bought from a dollar store in preparation for the Great New York Hurricane of 2011 that I slept through entirely.

It worked impressively well. Actually, out of all the food products I have tested out in regards to alternative uses, this worked the best. After peeling off the first layer of the sticker, I rubbed some peanut butter on all the left behind glue and paper lint. With some light scraping using my mostly-bitten-off nails, all of the residue readily separated from the glass. After washing off the peanut butter, I actually had to refer to the previous picture to see where on the candle the sticker used to be so I could get an accurately aligned “after” shot.

If peanut butter can help deal with the adhesive properties of a price sticker, it seems plausible that it would work on the aforementioned gum-in-the-hair as well. Still, prevention seems like the better way to go when dealing with chewed gum somehow getting on your head. The same goes for baiting mousetraps. We should all probably just be taking out our trash more often. And, nobody should be shaving with peanut butter. So, maybe let’s all just stick with just eating peanut butter like a normal person and then using it occasionally for sticker removal. We were mostly right in our dismissal of the “cool facts” guy at the terrible party.

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