Coconut oil consumption in the U.S. has increased by about 40 percent over the past 20 years. Though many of the most popular coconut oil uses are culinary (in spite of the controversy surrounding its high saturated fat content and detrimental effects on cholesterol levels), Americans are learning that the oil is also dead useful around the house: Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, won’t go rancid, and its high fat content actually makes it an excellent household conditioner and lubricant.
When shopping for coconut oil, avoid cheap processed versions of the product. Instead, seek out virgin, unrefined coconut oil, which retains the essential fatty acids that contribute to its overall effectiveness around the house. (The purer stuff, like all saturated fats, is solid at room temperature.) Below, learn how a single jar of coconut oil can help you speed through a host of housekeeping chores.
1. Erase Stickiness and Unwanted Marks
Coconut oil is great for lifting residue from almost any surface, including hard-to-remove sticker residue, gum in carpeting, skid marks on linoleum, and crayon on walls. Simply dab a little oil onto the offending sticky or waxy mess, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe clean with a cloth or paper towel.
RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: Best Adhesive Removers
2. Condition and Restore Wood
Coconut oil makes a high-quality conditioner for wood and keeps it supple, preventing warping, and minimizing the effects of daily use. Here’s how to keep your wood furnishings in good shape: Clean the wooden surface with a damp towel or dust cloth, then rub a small amount of oil into the surface using circular motions and a clean cloth. Let the oil soak in for 15 minutes before wiping clean. If wood doesn’t shine up as much as you’d like, try this natural cleaner: Combine the juice of half a lemon to a quarter cup of coconut oil. Mix well, rub into wood, and wipe clean after 2 minutes. Note: To condition cutting boards, use only pure coconut oil for its antimicrobial properties.
3. Polish Stainless Steel Appliances
Tired of fingerprints and streak marks on your stainless steel appliances? Simply rub a teaspoon of coconut oil into the surface, using a soft, dry cloth in a circular motion, starting at the top and moving downward. Once you’ve covered the whole surface, run a fresh cloth over it in the same direction as the grain for a bright, mark-free shine. The same application technique will deter unsightly water marks on stainless steel sinks and faucets.
RELATED: What’s the Deal With Fingerprint-Resistant Stainless Steel?
4. Stop Squeaks and Rust
A teaspoon of coconut oil will quiet a squeaky door hinge in mere seconds. Rub the oil into the hardware using a clean cloth, then open and shut the door several times to work it in for silent, smooth functioning. Get the same results outside on your outdoor gate hinges, and smaller hinges on kitchen cupboards and cabinets indoors. This natural door hinge lubricant also prevents rust and dust buildup, so you may want to dab some onto your hinges before they start squeaking.
5. Maintain Your Garden Tools
Consider keeping a second jar of coconut oil in your garden shed or potting bench, within easy reach of your outdoor tools. In summer, rub a thin layer over clean metal lawnmower blades before running it to prevent grass from sticking, caking, and causing deterioration over time. Do the same to garden tools like shovels and trimmers to keep them in tip-top shape.
RELATED: How to Sharpen Lawnmower Blades
6. Season Cast Iron Skillets
A cast-iron skillet needs to be seasoned to prevent rust and retain its cooking abilities. Coconut oil is the ideal agent. To season a skillet with coconut oil, apply a thick coat all over the pan, inside and out, and place it in a cool oven. Set the oven to 300 degrees, and when it reaches that temperature, let the skillet bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool completely before wiping away—but not washing off—the oil.
7. De-gunk Your Dashboard
When a film forms on your car’s dashboard panel, it’s hard to see your speedometer, map, and other crucial travel information. To clean your dashboard and keep it dust-free, apply a small amount of coconut oil to a clean microfiber cloth and buff gently. While it’s unlikely that a natural oil will cause any harm to dashboard glass, you may wish to test a small, inconspicuous area first before wiping down the rest of the surface.
RELATED: 15 Genius Tricks for Keeping Your Car Clean
8. Deter Dust on a Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans are dust magnets, and cleaning their blades is a pretty inconvenient task. The next time you climb a ladder to clean your ceiling fan blades, take a jar of coconut oil with you. Dust the blades first to remove dirty buildup, then dab a little oil onto a clean microfiber cloth and apply directly to each fan blade to help prevent the static electricity that attracts dust.
9. Unstick a Zipper
You’re in a rush, you throw on your coat—and boom, your zipper gets stuck. Instead of tugging frantically and making matters worse, dab a bit of coconut oil on the zipper’s trouble spot. Work the oil into the teeth, but try to avoid getting oil on the garment’s fabric. Move the zipper back and forth gently until it moves freely.
RELATED: How to Sew a Zipper
10. Tend Minor Wounds
A 2010 study in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that coconut oil reduced inflammation and increased collagen production, which are essential steps of skin healing. While you should always seek emergency care or medical attention for significant accidents around the home, minor scrapes and bruises can be tended to with a touch of coconut oil.
After cleaning the affected area with soap and water, apply an antibiotic cream to the wound, then apply a thin layer of coconut oil to help prevent scarring. Both the ointment and the oil are sticky, so you’ll probably want to cover the treated wound with a bandage to keep the ointments in place.
11. Kill Weeds
When hand-pulling weeds isn’t doing the trick, coconut oil can help safely kill weeds in your garden without harming the soil. Coconut oil contains fatty acids that inhibit a weed’s ability to photosynthesize and eliminate waste, causing it to die off.
Warm equal parts coconut oil and cheap vegetable oil in a saucepan on low. Whisk to combine the oils and prevent the coconut oil from solidifying. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and let it cool. Spray the weeds daily for approximately 2 weeks, making sure to shake the bottle before each use.
RELATED: 12 Natural Ways to Kill Weeds
12. Remove Sap
You know how troublesome sap can be if you’ve parked under a pine tree or left your patio set too close to the backyard maple. Hand-washing the spot with soap and water can sometimes take care of the sticky goo, but sap can be very stubborn. Clean the sap off before it hardens with a liberal application of coconut oil. Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes before wiping it away with a cloth soaked in hot water.
If it doesn’t work the first time, repeat the process as necessary to remove the sap. Once it’s gone, wash the area with soap and water to ensure the surface is clean.
13. Hydrate Your Dog’s Paws and Skin
If dry skin is causing your dog to itch, or if your dog has developed dry, cracked paws, moisturizing coconut oil may be able to alleviate the discomfort. To alleviate Fido’s dry patches, put a small amount of coconut oil in your palms and rub your hands gently over the affected areas. Apply the oil up to 3 times a week. When finished, either leave the oil on your dog’s fur or rinse out any greasiness with water.
Though we’ve already recommended avoid processed oils in favor of unrefined or virgin coconut oil, it’s particularly important in this case, in case your dog decides to lick the oil off. Though the ASPCA says that small amounts of coconut oil are “not likely to cause serious harm to your pet,” as with any wellness product, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet before giving coconut oil (or anything new) to your dog.
RELATED: 15 Things Every Pet Owner Needs for a Clean House
14. Repel Insects
Do you love DEET’s insect-repelling qualities, but hate its chemical ingredients? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, chemical compounds in coconut oil repel mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks, and other insects better than DEET. The ingredients in coconut oil that keep mosquitoes at bay are lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, along with their corresponding methyl esters.
Unless you can extract these acids and add them to a starch-based formula for long-term use, you’ll have to settle for making your own moisturizing insect repellent that will need to be reapplied often. Use coconut oil as a carrier oil and mix it with insect-repelling essential oils such as peppermint, lemongrass, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil.
15. Keep Snow From Sticking to Your Shovel
Shoveling the driveway in the winter is enough of a workout, but the chore becomes even worse when the snow sticks to the shovel and you have to expend yet more energy shaking it loose. Fortunately, a little bit of coconut oil can make things easier and potentially reduce strain and fatigue.
The process is simple: Use a cloth to rub a layer of coconut oil to your snow shovel before each use. The oil lubricates the shovel, helping snow glide right off it as you clear the driveway.