Home & Living
15 Uses for Toothpicks That You Never Knew Existed
From kitchen aid to helping your handiwork, you'll discover numerous uses for toothpicks that go beyond actual tooth picking.
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Toothpicks aren’t just for your teeth. In fact, a lot of dentists warn against picking your teeth with them because they can easily damage gum tissue. But that doesn’t mean toothpicks are obsolete. Take a look at a few of the ways that you can find uses for toothpicks inside and outside your home.
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1. Protect plants and seedlings
When your garden is young and vulnerable, use toothpicks to create a protective barrier. The plant will grow straight without falling to the ground, so it will be protected from caterpillars and other crawlies. You can also use a toothpick to support plants that have broken branches and injured leaves.
Photo: Shutterstock / Igor A. Bondarenko
2. Touch up paint
If your furniture has small nicks or scratches, a toothpick is a perfect stand-in for a small brush to fill in the scratch, because it’s just the right size. You can also use toothpicks to help create a deliberately damaged or distressed paint effect on a furniture project.
Photo: Shutterstock/Jordi Prat Puig
3. Clean hard-to-reach spots
When dust, debris, bacteria and other yuck collect in the minuscule cracks around remote-control buttons, phone buttons and toys, using a toothpick is a perfect way to clean out the gunk. You can use the same technique to clear your hairbrushes and showerheads.
4. Plug tiny holes
In furniture or other pieces of wood, you can fill in small holes with a toothpick. After using a bit of it to fill in the hole, sand down the toothpick and then paint or varnish as you normally would. You can also use a toothpick as a temporary holder for an eyeglass screw—just be sure to trim it so that you don’t hurt yourself.
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5. Use as an extended matchstick
A great use for a toothpick is as a matchstick. Not all matchsticks reach to the candle or burn for long enough to light it, especially when the candle sits in the bottom of trendy candle holders such as mason jars. Toothpicks are slow burning, giving you more time to light the candle, even when it’s out of range.
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6. Slow the flow of salad dressings
To avoid pouring out too much salad dressing or sauce, use a toothpick to poke a hole in the jar’s sealed foil. Sauces and dressings will pour more slowly out of the bottle, preventing accidental overload. You can also create your own seal with tinfoil and poke a hole with a toothpick for any bottles of homemade dressing.
Photo: Shutterstock / Rebecca Leyva
7. Color code
Use colored toothpicks as markers for different foods at parties. For example, try blue toothpicks for rare, red for medium, and yellow for well-done steak. Or differentiate between vegetarian and carnivorous versions of other food items using a toothpick code.
8. Remove items from a marinade
It can be frustrating to fish items out of a marinade that you want to flavor the food, but don’t want to cook and serve. An easy use for toothpicks is to create a mini kabob out of bits and pieces that you use to flavor marinades, like garlic, hot peppers and other herbs and spices. Then just discard when you are ready to cook.
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9. Prevent food from rolling
Sausages, hot dogs, and other tubular foods have a tendency to roll around on the grill, causing them to cook at different times. Have your food stay in one place and come out with a uniform doneness by linking them together with toothpicks.
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10. Test for doneness
You’ve watched your mother and grandmother do it, so you might as well join the crowd. One of the most common uses for toothpicks is to test cakes, brownies, and other baked good for doneness. Just note that especially gooey treats, as well as melted chocolate, can throw off the less-than-scientific results. Use a cooking thermometer if you want more accurate results.
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11. Sketch on dessert
Curlicues, messages and other intricate designs on a cake or cheesecake are difficult to draw with icing. Use a toothpick to create a pattern and then go over it with icing, frosting or jam for better results. Your flowers, letters and fanciful patterns will likely be a little more legible if you trace them first.
Photo: Shutterstock/YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV
12. Test dirt for moisture levels
Just as you test for cake moisture and doneness, you can determine whether your plants need to be watered without getting dirt under your nails. Simply stick a toothpick in the soil to check for moisture. This is especially useful if you don’t want to wreck your manicure before you leave for a trip.
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13. Let steam escape
Place a toothpick between the lid and the pot to allow steam to escape. Having just a little air flow can prevent your pasta pot from boiling over if your cookware doesn’t already have a vent in the lid.